Sunday, April 20, 2008

Noem Arch - Brno

“Such is the human race, often it seems a pity that Noah... didn't miss the boat.”
-Mark Twain
It was certainly appropriate that it was pouring down rain the day we went to the Noem Arch restaurant in Brno.In English, V said she thought the name roughly translates as "Noah's Ark," but if that is the case, the Czech is not correct. Flaunting her Czech linguistics degree, she insisted it should be written as "Noemova Archa."

It turns out, there were plenty of things we found we not quite right about this flashy-looking place.

There is a giant, smiling photo of "celebrity chef Roman Hadrbolec" on the wall outside the restaurant.

According to his personal website, he served celebrities on a cruise ship and worked as a caterer in California for some big Hollywood stars.

You can also read about how he worked as a model and placed second in a swimsuit competition.

I'm sorry, but after eating in his restaurant, we were left with the impression of style over substance. That he's a pretty boy who serves pretty food, some of which tasted pretty bad.

That's a harsh assessment, but we didn't enjoy it much and honestly thought we could have done many of the Asian-influenced dishes better ourselves at home.

The dining room is big, open, and a little glitzy. We both thought it was a nice, modern space.Unfortunately, just outside the restaurant's big windows, there's an auto garage and a Tesco parking lot.

The waiter was the hyper-attentive sort that some people appreciate. Us? Not so much.

We're just not the types who need a guy wearing one white glove on his right hand to pour our mineral water throughout the meal.And speaking of water, we were offered the sparkling variety, said yes, and received .75 liter bottle of San Pellegrino. It wasn't too crazy a price at 100 CZK , but we didn't realize until later that small Mattoni were also available. I wished he had offered a choice.

One nice service touch was that they had little stools for women to put their purses on under the tables so they didn't have to rest them on the floor or hang them on the back of the chair.

There was an amuse bouche. It was a little piece of toast with creme fraiche and red caviar.

For a starter, V got the calamari with sea salt and chili peppers (250 CZK).

It is described as "lightly crumbed fried calamari rings." The flour-like coating was greasy and soggy. There was no crunch at all.

I've eaten fried calamari all over the world, including Hollywood. I'm something of an addict. And based on that extensive experience, I have come to believe that the exterior should be crispy. It will take more than one celebrity chef to convince me otherwise.It came with chili sauce on the side. From a bottle. Now, I happen to like that sticky, super-sweet stuff with the chili flakes. I have a bottle at home. But perhaps I expected a little more creativity.

It was a pretty small serving of calamari, but perhaps I say that because I just came from a trip to the U.S.A. where the same money would get you super-sized portion of fresh fried rings.

I ordered the stuffed homemade rice paper roll (150 CZK). The menu says the cold roll is filled with "chicken, prawn, rice noodles, lettuce, Rau Om herb and mint."It comes with the chili sauce or peanut sauce. I chose the latter. I really liked the sauce, but I don't have much else good to say.

The chicken was just naked as far as we could tell. We couldn't even taste any salt. Super bland. A missed opportunity. We couldn't taste any seasoning on the rice noodles inside, either. Super-duper bland. Plain lettuce?

The shrimp were OK, but not much expertise goes into those. We love the flavor of mint, but sadly, there were only a few small leaves dominated by everything else.

We've made both of these starters in our own kitchen from an Asian cookbook recipe. When we make the rolls, we soak the rice noodles in fish sauce and a little sugar. Also, we use basil instead of lettuce.

And we roll them thinner and tighter so they can be cut with a knife. The big fat one we got exploded all over the plate with one cut. No more roll.

For a main course, V ordered the Red Snapper in banana leaf and stuffed with aubergine and lime sambal (390 CZK).

The menu said it was steamed in a banana leaf, but it was apparently removed in the kitchen.It was a nice piece of fish. The vegetables, including carrot, bean sprouts, and Enoki mushrooms was quite good.

But the aubergine and lime sambal? Truly awful. Both of us thought it was inedible. The stuffing was intensely salty, and it also had an unpleasant, acrid sesame flavor.

Something was wrong with the oil, we both thought. V had to scrape it off to the side of the plate.

I had the lamb saté with spicy peanut sauce (300 CZK). We both liked this the best.

There was a respectable amount of lamb, which had been beaten into a tender state, and cooked on wooden skewers. It had a slight smoky flavor. The peanut sauce, again, was nice.The rice noodles on the side were mixed with peanut and coconut milk, as far as I could tell. It was also bland.

I asked the waiter for salt. He brought some, explaining that salt is not left on tables because dishes are "as they should be."

Trust me, salt was a big improvement. I threw some on the lamb, as well. I also put some peanut sauce into the noodles (was that how it should be?).

After the DIY seasoning at the table, we both enjoyed it.

But overall, we were pretty unhappy. The bill for lunch, with tip, came to 1500 CZK. I don't mind spending that kind of money if I leave with a smile on my face.

But we weren't smiling. We were disappointed.

This Hollywood extravaganza wasn't worth the price of admission.

And unlike most Hollywood productions, we didn't even get a happy ending.

Noem Arch Restaurant
Cimburkova 9
612 00 Brno – Královo Pole
Tel. (+420) 541 216 160

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Michaela said...

Wow. That´s not a restaurant, that´s a narcissistic disorder at its best. Thanks for the warning, Brewsta.

Also, hello from a long-time lurker. I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog - being on a student budget means I don´t have much opportunity to actually follow your recommendations, however, I read them religiously anyway :)

Brewsta said...

Thanks, Michaela. I can't afford to eat out at all these expensive restaurants, either. And yet I still do (and pay for it myself!).

Reinhard said...

Free after Gordon Ramsay: This Chef is a f......g wanker! Hopeless case